March 23rd, 2020 – Back in Toronto
Cecilworth Farthington Presents: Who Is Teddy Palmer?
It really shouldn’t irritate me as much as it does. I mean, kudos to Farthy for putting together such a well crafted television special, or documentary, or whatever that fuck that was. Like, that shit was engaging, entertaining, and thought provoking. Real cutting edge material. Will the real Teddy Palmer please stand up! Am I right? I totally can’t wait for next week’s ‘Dead or Alive: The Max Kael Story’.
Let it never be said that the man isn’t funny, because it’d a fuckin’ lie.
So why then? If what I’m saying is true, and he just produced pure television gold, like real Primetime Emmy Award material, why am I so fuckin’ irritated.
Maybe it’s the fatigue? I mean, I have been training nonstop, as you’d expect of a World Championship Challenger. Whether it be grinding it out in the weight room, or locking horns with world class grapplers, or, ironically enough, getting acquainted with yoga, I’ve dedicated countless hours to the cause.
Or maybe it’s the lack of sleep? Those countless hours of training have canceled out many opportunities to slumber, but the biggest offender is the restless mind of, as Cecilworth would lead you to believe, ‘the sociopathic serial killer’. We are talking about an obsessive, one track, circling train of thought: Farthington; 97Red; Coliseum; Repeat. It’s an exhausting ride, but can I really afford to get off it?
Or maybe it’s the withdrawal? Sure, I’d like to think I’ve made it through the worst, symptom wise, but fuck was it tough getting here. The nausea and vomiting and headaches, oh my. It was like being subjected to the absoute worst torture you could think of. Go ahead. Think of something. Now picture that, but still having to train and obsess because time isn’t on your side, and doesn’t permit a moment’s break. Nope, not now.
So which one is it? Unos, Dos or Tres? The answer: none of the above.
You could argue they all contribute in some way, and sure, you’d be right on some level, but not one in particular is to blame or the reason why. I’m irritated because Cecilworth asked the age old question I’ve struggled with for a very long time. It’s something I still struggle with, and have travelled many paths in search of it’s answer. I have found enlightenment in my journey, and I have found heartache. But I have never, truly found the answer.
Who Is Teddy Palmer?
It’s the question that has derailed me time and time again. It’s the question that has my head spinning and my blood boiling. I know who I want to be, and I know who I need to be, but I also know getting there isn’t as simple as saying I am. There is work that needs to be done, and fuck, I’m trying. I’m trying more than I ever have. And I hope it’s enough, I do, but nine days into sobriety, while providing reason for optimism, doesn’t eliminate doubt. Not by any means.
So watching Farthington shit on my career wasn’t easy. I would normally laugh it off for what it’s worth. But not right now. It has me itching. And not that good itch. Nah. The itch that’s scratched with a relapse. That’s why I need to remove myself from the situation. I need a night to clear my mind, recharge, and refocus…
And what better way than a dinner date with Binh.
7:27 PM – Loose Moose Bar & Grill
“Are you okay?” Binh asks.
Not really is the answer I want to give, but hoping tonight will change my outlook, “Yeah, of course.” I reply.
“Doesn’t look like it,” he points.
Looking down where his index prompts me to, my napkin is shredded into hundreds of pieces. Looking back at Binh, his head is tilted and he’s giving me a real sassy ‘bitch please’ face.
“Er…so what’s up with you not coming to Rome?” I ask, changing the subject. “You sure you want to hang back here?”
“I’m sure.” He says, beginning to pick away at his curry shrimp rice bowl.
“Come on buddy. It’ll be a fun time. You can be my plus one.”
“No thank you.”
“Last chance. Once and a lifetime opportunity. Going once.” I pause, eyeing the little man who’s now balls deep in his rice. “Going twice…” He still doesn’t look up. “Two and a half…”
“Ted. I said no.” He says with unbreakable patience, swiping stray grains of rice from his chin whiskers. “It’s your once in a lifetime opportunity. Not mine.”
“Okaaay…” I stretch it out, hoping he might change his tune. “…but if I win the World Championship and you’re not there…” I lay the guilt on thick. “Well, you’re going to feel like a real bag of dicks…”
The two of us share awkward expressions with one another. Surely he’s wondering what exactly a bag of dicks would feel like. I, on the other hand, am jonesing for that bottle of red wine two tables over.
“Teddy?” A soft, yet raspy voice interrupts our exchange. “Teddy? How are you doing?”
Looking away from my dinner date, a short curvy blonde is standing beside our table. Her smile is warm and her eyes inviting. Her right hand has found residence on my shoulder, and her body language screams we know each other, but I’m drawing a complete blank.
“Hey…you…” I offer, as genuine as one possibly can in such a situation.
“It’s me.” She says, like that will somehow jog my memory. “Heather…” She fades through the last bit of her name.
Looking to Binh, his facial expression kindly says ‘the fuck if I’d know’, before going back to downing his rice. The hand that seconds ago was on my shoulder has retreated, and she fumbles to find a natural resting place for it. She squints her eyes as if she were doing a terrible Binh impression, unable to look at anything other than me. I wish she’d just be on her way but she appears to be frozen in embarrassment.
“I’m…I’m just gonna shoot from the hip here…” I begin, trying to navigate the pending sting of upcoming honesty. “I’m not quite sure who you are. Like, I know you’re Heather, because you just said it, but Heather who?”
“We uh. Well. You know?”
Oh yeah! Of course! That clears everything up!
“No, I don’t know,” my answer is one she is hurt to hear. “Here’s the thing, I get dropped on my head for a living. Like, a lot. So forgive me for not remembering your name. That being said, I’d really like to get back to my dinner, if you wouldn’t mind.”
“Yeah….of course.” She says with a hint of sadness I don’t quite understand. “Sorry to bother you…”
“No worries at all.”
I can’t help but watch as she saunters to the back corner of the restaurant. She sits at her table, where a female companion sits at the opposite side of the table. They exchange thoughts, share a few scoffs it would appear, and look back towards Binh and I. Her friend is clearly disgusted, and she lets it know via flipping her middle finger.
Who in the fuck does she think she is?
“How could you forget her name?” Binh asks.
“What?” I snap my head back towards him, away from the unknown woman’s vulgar display. “I don’t know. Like you haven’t forgotten someone’s name before.”
He probably hasn’t. Prick.
“My mind is elsewhere, for fuck sakes. You know that.” I justify my lapse. “I’ve been thinking about everything Cecilworth lately, I’d probably have guessed Cecilia had she not offered spoilers…”
“And Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeiiiiii, Will Always Love Yooooooouuuuuuuu!”
Having forgotten to silence my phone, Whitney Houston belts out my ringtone. My phone dances across the table as I struggle to grab it, my eyes more focused on the packed dining area whose meals I’ve just interrupted. Finally catching hold of the slippery device, the incoming call is from Red, the umpteenth one this week. I quickly end this misery, sending him to voicemail. Binh hasn’t stopped eating his rice.
“I’m uh…sorry everyone.” I announce, waving my hand out to try and divert their attention. “Back to your meals, please.”
Flipping the phone face down, I can feel my face has darkened a shade or two of red. The dining area has fallen back to it’s muffled chaos, the result of multiple ‘whispered’ conversations. Heather and her friend appear to have moved on from our incident, and put a new focus on the food in front of them. Binh, struggling to keep his meal out of his beard, wipes it clean with his napkin and takes a sip of his water.
“Was that Red?” he asks.
“Who else would it be?” My frustration is not directed at Binh, but the best friend who can’t seem to leave well enough alone.
“Why didn’t you answer?”
“The same reason I haven’t answered all week.”
“Which would be?”
“I don’t want his fuckin’ advice. I told him I needed to do this on my own, and as per usual, he thinks he knows best and needs to outline every single detail for me.” I say, leaning in. “And guess what, I’ve done just fine up until this point. I’d be willing to bet I know more about Farthington than I do my own brother.”
“And what will ignoring him solve?” Binh asks.
“Oh, I don’t know? A shit show blowup, perhaps?” I retort. “That’s the last thing I need right now.”
“Certainly you must understand where he’d be confused. You made yourself his responsibility for so many years.”
“And I’m trying to change that. How can I change it if he won’t back the fuck off?” I bark. “I don’t know how much clearer I can make it. I appreciate what he’s done for me. But I need to do this on my own. Win or lose, it needs to be done on my own.”
“And why is that?”
“Because if I win that World Championship, I don’t need there to be any murmurs. You know? That if it weren’t for Red, I’d have never won it. That my accomplishment would mean nothing,” I say, slumping into my chair. “Or if I lose…I don’t want to sit there and wonder if it weren’t for him, would I be World Champion? I don’t want to risk resenting him. I need the definitive answer to either outcome to be the man in the mirror.”
“And have you explained that to him? Just like that?”
“Yes!” I snap before taking a second to think. “In not so many words…”
“I’m sure he doesn’t want to feel as if he’s responsible for you, but things are hard to let go of,” Binh says, shedding a slight grin. “You of all people should know this.”
Binh, my ever so wise fortune cookie.
“Excuse me,” a second, unfamiliar female voice interrupts.
Beside our table is another woman, this one partially known, by proxy of Heather. Her interruption of mine and Binh’s heated exchange is nowhere near as friendly as the first, as she’s bypassed pleasantries in favor of a deeply offended demeanour. Her lips are pursed, eyes squinted, leaving me to wonder if Binh is developing a complex because of this, and hand firmly perched on that side shifted hip hip.
Not this shit again…
“Yes?” I ask, trying to remain pleasant but tone easily leaks through.
“Is this some sort of game to you?”
“I can assure you it most certainly is not.” I snap back. “Trust me when I say that tonight of all nights, I have zero interest in any sort of games.”
“Do you make a habit of this? Huh?!” She demands.
“Habit of what? I literally have know idea who you are, who Heather is, or how I know her.” I plead.
“A habit of sleeping with women and forgetting who they are,” she says, stabbing me with her words.
No, not true. It can’t be. Fuck. This ain’t good…
I can feel my heart immediately sink into my stomach. My mouth goes dry. My palms clam up. This disgusting moment serves as a stiff reminder of the trail I’ve left behind through my years of addiction. Binh looks at me with a level of disappointment in his eyes, but I can tell his judgement is reserved as it’s no secret I’ve done shitty things in my past. The type of things I’m trying to avoid going forward.
“I am…” I begin, cutting myself off and sitting briefly in ashamed silence.
Standing up from my chair, I make a beeline towards that back corner table that houses the aching blonde. She’s dejected and her body language says as much. She is hurt in a way I can’t even begin to imagine, and I don’t know what I can say or do to right this wrong. I am left with only one option, and that is to speak from the heart.
Afterall, it’s been my goto as of recently.
“Heather, I…I’ve done a lot of terrible things. I mean, a-lot of terrible things,” I emphasize. “But never would I think I’d be capable of something like this. Now I can make every excuse possible related to being an addict or drunk and losing periods of time…”
“…There is no excuse.”…” she mumbles.
“You’re absolutely right. There is no excuse. All I can say is, I’m sorry. From the bottom of my heart, I’m sorry.”
She won’t look up at me. Fuck, I don’t blame her. I’m now the one frozen in embarrassment, waiting for something. Anything. A hand lands firmly on my shoulder, prompting me to turn around. Heather’s companion stands before me with justice in her eyes and a glass in her hand.
“Go to hell, Ted,” she says, tossing her drink in my face.
It burns my eyes. It enters my nostrils, going down the back of my throat. My beard becomes a sticky mess. It slips past my lips. It’s not just coke. Fuck! There is a hefty rye content to this drink. I spit feverishly trying to get it’s taste out of mouth, to no avail. I use my sleeve as a makeshift towel, soaking up whatever I can. The dining patrons stare in curiosity at the commotion in the back corner, unable to mind their own business.
“And Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeiiiiii, Will Always Love Yooooooouuuuuuuu!”
Those same patrons shift their stare to Binh and my screaming phone. He looks at me, shrugging his shoulders.
“SEND IT TO VOICEMAIL!” I scream.
3 Minutes Later – University Avenue
Binh and I have relocated to the Sorento, quickly getting the fuck out of dodge. In our abrupt departure we were subject to staredowns, offhand comments, and a hucked pickle in our direction. It narrowly missed, but the intention behind it was hurtful, nonetheless.
But they weren’t wrong in their reactions. What type of douche sleeps with a girl and goes on to forget who she is? I’ve pondered that minute old riddle for, well about a minute now. Surely Binh must be wondering the same.
“You did the right thing by apologizing,” he says, breaking the silence.
“The rye in my mouth begs to differ…”
“Forgiveness won’t follow every apology. You will learn that as you move forward.”
It’d be real cool if he’d lay off the wise old man schtick for like five minutes…
The phone sitting on the center console yells at me. Flipping it over, the push notification reminds me I have one new voicemail. Swiping away at the screen, it’s no time before the phone is ringing through. The monotone voice asks for my password and I oblige, cramming 1-1-1-1 into the device.
Don’t judge me, it’s easy to remember.
“You have one new voice message. First new message…
Hey Ted, I get it. You’re probably face down in another bottle, or another girl. Just let me know when…
No, fuck that. You’ve heard that on every other message you haven’t replied to. Stop being an asshole and pick up.
And on the off chance this isn’t Ted and you’ve swiped this phone, run to the nearest hospital and get tested. You’ve probably just picked up a STD.
“Fuck, Red,” I mutter “I should call him back, right?” I say with the smallest hint of guilt.
Silence. Binh must not have heard me.
“I said, I should call him back, right?” I say with the same level of guilt, just slightly louder.
Looking over to Binh, he’s not paying attention to the words coming out of my mouth. His eyes are fixated on the rearview mirror, wide and alert. Looking into the mirror to see what is so fuckin’ important that he’s elected to ignore me, I see the only thing that could make this night worse: flashing red and blues. Exhaling deeply and mumbling a few curses, I pull off to the side of the road and flick on my four ways.
“Fan-fuckin-tastic!” I cry out. “Just when I think this night couldn’t get any worse…”
In my side mirror, I see what you’d describe as your stereotypical police officer emerge from the flashing cruiser. I first take notice of his strut. As he begins to walk forward, his swagger screams ‘I am the law, bitch’. Then the body of a man fifteen years or so into his career. His gut is slightly too big, rolling over his belt, putting undue pressure on the buttons to his uniformed shirt. Lastly as he gets closer, I can see he sports a trimmed and neat moustache which I’m beginning to think is a mandated uniform accessory
But the best detail of all? He’s wearing aviators. It’s nearly 8 PM, and he’s wearing fuckin’ aviators.
And the worst detail? His identity isn’t a mystery. I know this man, name and all. The sweet fuckin’ irony…
“License and registr…” he stops, sliding his unnecessary shades down his nose. “Ted?”
Officer Kyle Marshall. The man who sits atop the leaderboard when it comes to ‘Who’s arrested Ted the most?’. Drunk and disorderly, nude in public, drinking and driving. You name it, I’ve been charged with it, and Big Kyle here has built a safe lead ahead of his fellow competitors.
“Officer Marshall!” He snaps, before composing himself. “Why am I not surprised? Of course it’d be you.”
“I’m starting to think these run ins aren’t just a coincidence anymore,” I say, winking at the lawman. “And I hate to be the one to burst your bubble, but I am an innocent man today.”
“That’s cute, innocent man. Well let me ask you, have you ever heard of ‘Distracted Driving’?” he questions with a sense of superiority. “I hope that phone call was an important one.”
“Oh, that?” I laugh, as Kyle has greatly misunderstood this situation. “I wasn’t talking on my phone. I was listening to a voicemail. That’s all.”
“License and registration.”
What the fuck is with everyone’s listening skills today?
“I don’t think you heard me. I wasn’t talking on my cell phone.”
“Oh I heard you. And again I say…”he hesitates before resuming with a real ‘He-Man’ tone. “Licence and Registration.”
“Ky…er, Officer Marshall…” I say, swallowing my pride in doing so. “I’m sorry for the confusion. That voicemail could have waited, I agree. But it’s been a real fuckfest of a day, and I’d like nothing more than to just go home.”
“You mean to Larry’s couch?” The coworker of my brother jabs.
“Well” I begin, my chest tightening. I try to refrain from returning his serve, but with every fucking irritation of the day having built up, I just can’t. “Your wife gave me the heads up that you’d be home tonight. So yeah, I guess it will be Larry’s couch.”
Way to go Ted! You’re doing great today!
Officer Marshall smiles, but isn’t happy by any means. He takes the shades off his face, his eyes adjusting to, well nothing. He uncomfortably stares down at me, sticking his chin out and turning it to the side. He begins to sniff, which is kind of weird, but to each their own. That’s when the bloodhound speaks.
“Say…” his smile grows. “Have you been drinking tonight, Ted?”
Looking at Binh, all he can do is shake his head. I know that look all too well. It’s not the first time someone has been disappointed in me.
“Heh…I could fuckin’ use one right about now…”
“Step out of the car.”
2 Hours Later – East of Bay Park
“Binh…I’m not okay,” I say, head drooped, eyes not looking up.
“I could have told you that,” he replies.
Binh and I had departed the police station not too long ago, and ventured off into the night. With no particular destination in mind, we eventually stumbled upon East of Bay Park. With the sun having set, the park has been vacated and we’ve chosen to occupy one of the countless picnic tables.
“Who am I?” I ask, not sure if an answer will follow.
Everytime I think I have an idea, or feel like I’m starting to grasp it, it all goes to shit. A ‘Heather’ will enter the picture. Or a ‘Kyle’ will make his return. Or a ‘Cecilworth’ will call the very issue into question. Whenever I take one step forward, I inevitably take two backwards.
“Who are any of us?” Binh answers my question with a question.
“Binh. You know I appreciate you, right?”
“Then I say this will all due respect: cut the Mr. Miyagi bullshit. Please.”
“Ted,” Binh giggles. “Who we are is subjective and ever changing. I watched that program with you. Cecilworth claimed to be a constant. There is no such thing.”
Are you kidding me? That fucker has done it all here. He is the benchmark of this company.
“How can you say that? How can anyone dispute what that man has done?”
“No one is disputing his achievements,” Binh says, shaking his head. “He is and has been successful. But a constant? No. No one is a constant. We are all changing. You. Me. Cecilworth.”
“Yeah but…” I’m cut off by Binh.
“Let me ask you this: How can anyone be a constant when every day brings about a new opportunity to improve upon yesterday, or to falter?”
Binh has a bag resting in the grass beside him. I’m not quite sure where it came from or what’s in it, all I know is he acquired it while I was at the Police Station dealing with Officer Marshall. He reaches down into its opening, and slowly removes a bottle of rye, placing it atop the picnic table.
“And here is an opportunity. Do you improve, or do you faltar?” he asks.
“This…this is pretty fucked up Binh,” I reply blunty, uneasy he’s brought a bottle of liquor into our conversation.
“Is it? Every morning you wake up, you are presented with a series of choices to make. Choices not for me to make. Or Red. Or Cecilworth,” he says, sliding the bottle closer towards me. “So, what’s your choice?”
“Seriously Binh, stop it.” I say leaning away from the table, looking anywhere but at the bottle.
“When given the option to either grit your teeth and fight through adversity, or to crumble under pressure and quit, what will you do?” he asks, unscrewing the lid to the bottle.
Leaping up from the picnic bench, I snatch the bottle off the table. The amber liquid swishes within, some spilling down the side of the bottle, soaking my hand. My eyes are squeezed shut. My jaw is clenched. I feel the vein bulging in my forehead. With the velocity of a Major League pitcher, I turn and throw the bottle against a nearby tree. It shatters on impact, the rye misting every which way, the glass raining down to the grass below. Turning to Binh, he sits with a smile on his face.
“I SAID FUCKIN’ STOP IT! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?” I scream.
“An opportunity presented itself. You made the choice to improve. That choice was yours, and yours alone. Being an alcoholic, you stood in the face of very real adversity and fought through it.” He says, nodding approvingly.
My breathing is heavy, but beginning to slow down. My face is flush and warm, but starts to cool down. I look at my hand, dripping wet with my vice. I stare briefly, before wiping away the mess onto my pant leg. Binh sticks his hand out, inviting me to sit. I oblige.
“Now let me ask you this: You threw that bottle away, but does that erase your years of alcoholism?”
“You are unable to change that past, but you can learn from it and grow.”
I run my hands through my hair, slide them down my face and through my beard. The smell on my hand is ever present, but for the moment, I’m okay. Okay, aside from the series of unfortunate events that was tonight, that is.
“I can’t believe I let him get in my head…” I mumble, cursing Farthington further in my mind.
“I hate to point it out, but he didn’t. You’ve been in your own head this entire time. He just threw a log on the fire that was already burning.”
“More like tossed a can of gasoline…”
“Believe it or not…” Binh starts, fixing his posture. “When looking back on your training and preparations for Cecilworth, this night will prove to be of great value.”
“How do you figure that?” I ask, somewhat sarcastically.
“You faced demons from your past.”
“What? Heather and Kyle?”
“Addiction and Recklessness. Heather and Kyle were merely products of them.”
“Yeah, well I didn’t handle them so well…”
“Could you have handled them better? Yes. But what’s important is you didn’t break.”
“I came close…” I mutter. “But no, I didn’t.”
“And because you didn’t break, you can grow from this.” Binh reaches across the table, placing his hand on my shoulder. “ And do you know what you’ll learn from that growth?”
I can’t help but smile, as Binh’s long winded lesson has come full circle.
“The same thing Cecilworth Farthington is about to learn: Who Teddy Palmer Is.”